Civil Rights activist Dorothy Height honored in Southside ceremony

Richmond native Dorothy Height would have celebrated her 107th birthday March 24. Photo by Shayla Bailey

Mary McLean, Contributing Writer

A highway marker, adorned with the seal of Virginia, was unveiled in front of the Hull Street Library at a ceremony for Dorothy Height March 24.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient was born in Richmond’s Blackwell neighborhood in 1912 and lived there for four years. Sunday marked what would have been her 107th birthday.

Family members of the Richmond native, who was an activist during the civil rights movement, gathered to celebrate her life. The event started with a memorial service at the First Baptist Church of South Richmond. Then, the Huguenot High School JROTC drumline directed attendees from the church to the Hull Street Library around the corner, where the new marker stands.

Many women who attended wore the “crimson and cream” colors of the Delta Sigma Theta, the predominantly black sorority of which Height was the 10th president. Alongside the state highway marker, women from Delta Sigma Theta unveiled a plaque their sorority dedicated to its former president.

Connie Cuffee, the current president of the sorority, said Height’s influence is felt to this day.

“We are living her legacy, and we want to make sure she is recognized for all of the good she did,” Cuffee said. “She was a pioneer for the rights of all human beings.”

The new highway marker is sentimental piece for people who were close to Height. Many of her family members attended and had special seats at the reception.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax attended the event. Northam’s governorship was enshrouded in scandal when he admitted to having worn blackface in a separate incident after a racist photo was discovered in his Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook in February. Northam, who has denied being pictured in the photo, was welcomed with applause from the crowd.

The new marker lists Height’s achievements in the span of her 98-year life, highlighting her work in the civil rights and women’s rights movements. She died in April 2010.

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